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September 05, 2017 6 min read

When you want to create a garment, the primary step you need to make is pattern making. This is a highly skilled process and it has evolved over the time. Before the industrial revolution, it was more important as tailors used to make patterns depending on the personal measurements of their customers, to create customized garments. The industrial revolution changed the things, so after it, there was required to make garments on large scale for the ready-to-wear industry. This determined the necessity of standard patterns. This led to the need for standard measurements and standard patterns.

Nowadays, patterns are made not only by hand but also using computer software. There are three major ways to do patterns: drafting, draping fabric on a dress form, or flat pattern designing. Today, you’ll learn about the flat pattern method. It is the technique of creating patterns for various styles by modifying a basic pattern.

Pattern making tools

If you want to create flawless patterns, you need to use the necessary pattern making tools. Using the appropriate tools help you reduce errors when working on the pattern. These tools are useful for pattern making, pattern alteration, and pattern grading. So let’s see some of the essential pattern making tools that you need:

  1. Straight pins. To be easy to penetrate into the fabric, straight pins should be made of steel and of good quality. They help you hold the pattern pieces together and to pin paper patterns on the fabric before you mark and cut.
  2. Pin holder. This helps you hold the pins.
  3. Scissors for paper and fabric. You need them for drafting, cutting, and stitching patterns.
  4. Pencil and pen. You need to use red and blue pencils to label pattern cutting lines and stitching lines on paper patterns.
  5. You need metal rulers for straight lines and curve ruler for measuring curves, as they are flexible and you can bend them when you measure.
  6. Push pin. They come in regular size and in various colors. You need to use them in pivoting and transferring style lines from the muslin to the pattern.
  7. You need this tool for the notches that are “V” shaped cutting to do them in seam allowances. They form the guide marks when joining parts of the garment.
  8. Tracing wheel. It features a serrated edge that helps with moving over the pattern markings easily while you transfer them onto fabric using carbon paper.
  9. Measuring tape. You need it to take body measurements and measure fabric, as well as to mark measurements on the patterns.
  10. Tailor’s chalk. You will use it to draw lines or markings on your fabric. You can find it in various shapes and colors.
  11. Hip curve ruler. It is a 24-inch ruler made of metal or wood, and it is shaped into a curve at one end. You will mostly use it to curve hemlines, hiplines, elbows, and lapels.


Here we’ll show you some of the most common terms that are used in flat pattern design.

  • Basic pattern set = It refers to a five-piece pattern set that consists of a front/back bodice, skirt, and a long sleeve. It is designed without any design features.
  • Blending = It refers to the process of smoothing, shaping, and rounding angular lines along a seam and marks that appear on the muslin or the pattern.
  • Bust point and Apex = It is a designated place on the bust and pattern. The apex is the highest location of a mound. The apex is also referred to as the pivotal point in flat pattern making.
  • Dart = It is a wedge shape cutout made in a pattern and it is used as a method to control the fit of a garment.
  • Dart point = It represents the end of a dart.
  • Dart legs = They refer to the two lines of the dart that expose at a predetermined point on the pattern.
  • Dart intake = It represents the restricted space between dart legs. It is meant to help you take up excess where it is not needed to shape the fabric to the body curved and achieve a perfect fit in the garment.
  • Ease = It refers to the even distribution of fullness without developing gathers.
  • Gusset = It represents a diamond, square, or triangular piece of fabric cut on the bias and inserted in a slash at the underarm curve of a sleeve, to provide freedom of movement.
  • Land marks = They are perfect points around the body that match with the points on the form that are used for measuring the body sections during drafting and draping.
  • Trueing = It represents the blending and straightening of pencil lines, dot marks, and cross marks to help you establish the correct seam lines.
  • Working pattern = It refers to any pattern that is used as a foundation for manipulation in creating or making design patterns.


To make a flat pattern and to make the necessary alterations depending on the given design, it is required that you first understand the existing pattern making principles. These principles allow you to easier develop new designs, while they keep the size and fit of the original pattern. If you want to become a pattern maker or a fashion designer, you need to learn how to create and alter any pattern. For this, you need to master the three basic principles, which are:

  1. Principle of dart manipulation

The dart is a triangular fold of fabric that is stitched on the wrong side of the garment, and it is responsible for the fit of the garment. Dart manipulation enables you to change the position of a dart within the pattern frame. You will need to learn several rules for combining, creating, and dividing the darts, and also for transferring darts at various places on the pattern piece. When you want to manipulate the dart, you can shift the dart, divide it, and relocate it into other parts of the bodice, and you can do these without altering the fit of the garment.

  1. Principle of added fullness

There are also some rules that you need to follow for adding fullness to a garment. Fullness can be provided with the help of pleats, gathers, tucks, and others. This principle provides a greater amount of fullness comparing to the excess a dart gives in a pattern. This principle also increases the pattern’s length and/or width.

  • Spreading fullness

Spreading fullness can be achieved through three different ways:

  1. You can spread fullness by expanding fullness evenly on top and bottom of the pattern.
  2. You can do it by giving fullness on one side only.
  3. The third way is to spread pattern unequally on both the sides.
  4. Principle of contouring

You need to use this principle to perfectly fit the pattern to the curved human body. You achieve fitting in the pattern by decreasing within its frame to fit the body above, below, and in between the shoulder blades and bust using seams and darts for a better fit.

Basic techniques for flat pattern design

Flat pattern design is easy to make, and it is also cost-effective and feasible. By simply repositioning the darts and altering them into various forms, you will obtain new designs. Using basic slopers, you can create collar, skirts, sleeve, and yoke designs. You can create many designs by simply repositioning the dart or by altering it into various forms such as pleats, princess panel, gathers, tucks, and much more.

Using flat pattern design, you create a basic pattern. Then, you can use the basic pattern resulted in creating various other new designs. For this, you only need to manipulate the basic design in various ways. Once you learn how to do this, you can easily create new designs by combining cut, slash, and spread techniques of the basic pattern. This process is also known as pattern alteration. By altering the pattern, you can alter it in length and width, but you can also make changes in position. For this, you need to use one of the two basic methods:

  1. Slash and spread

In the slash and spread method, you draw a new line wherever you want from the edge of the bodice pattern in a way that it touches the bust point. You need to slash the pattern at the new line until the bust point. You won’t slash the pattern through the bust point. As a result of this step, the old dart is closed. The slashed line opens out in the form of a dart. Doing this allows you to reposition the dart without modifying the fit of the garment.

  1. Pivot

The pivot method doesn’t involve the slashing of the pattern. It is a faster method, so it requires a better skill from you. To achieve this, you need to first position a working pattern on a piece of paper. The piece of paper must be longer and wider than your pattern. Pin it down using a push pin at the bust point. See where the relocation of dart should be made and mark the point.

Place it on the paper and trace the pattern from the dart leg to the repositioned point on your pattern. After you reach the new point, rotate or pivot the pattern to make sure the original dart legs B meets A. When you do this, the dart is closed. You can also see that point C moves. Now it is time to trace the pattern from the new position to combined dart legs AB. Eliminate the top pattern and you will see that a new dart is now visible on the paper at armhole point.